"Black Panther" Director Remembers Final Conversation With Chadwick Boseman
RYAN COOGLER DETAILED HIS LAST PHONE CALL WITH THE ACTOR BEFORE HIS DEATH AT AGE 43.
With the release of Black Panther in 2018, star Chadwick Boseman and writer/director Ryan Coogler together achieved the highest level of success in both of their careers. Two years later, when Coogler was still in the process of writing the sequel to the Marvel movie, he had a conversation with Boseman about it that he had no idea that would be their last.
In August 2020, Boseman died of colon cancer at age 43, which came as a shock to fans and co-workers. The actor had kept his diagnosis private outside of a small group of people. Now, in a new interview days before the release of the Black Panther sequel, Wakanda Forever, Coogler has shared his memories of his last interaction with Boseman, which took place only a couple of weeks before he passed away. Read on to see what the director said of their last conversation and how it hinted at the actor's condition.
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Coogler called Boseman to discuss the new script.
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On the first episode of Wakanda Forever: The Official Black Panther Podcast, which premiered on Nov. 3, Coogler spoke to writer Ta-Nehisi Coates about his last time speaking with Boseman.
"My last conversation with him was calling him to ask him if he wanted to read it before I got notes from the studio. That was the last time we spoke. He passed maybe a couple weeks after I finished," Coogler explained.
He could tell something was wrong, though he didn't know how serious it was.
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Coogler took a moment to collect himself, and continued, "He was tired, bro. I could tell he was tired. I'd been trying to get a hold of him for a few days, and Denzel [Washington] had been trying to get a hold of him, too. So I texted him, and I told him, 'Hey, man, Denzel said he's been looking for you, too.'"
Boseman had just acted in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, which was produced by Washington, but the film was not yet out. The movie, which was Boseman's last, was released in November 2020, and he was posthumously nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
After Coogler texted Boseman, the actor called him back. "I could tell he was laying down when we were talking," Coogler said. "And [his wife] Simone [Ledward Boseman] was with him, and he kicked Simone out because he told her he didn't want her to hear nothing that could get him in trouble with his NDA [non-disclosure agreement]. She didn't want to leave him, so I could tell something was up, you know." But, he added that they were "joking and laughing."
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Boseman talked to him about life instead of the script.
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Coogler said that Boseman told him about the wedding that he and Ledward Boseman were planning in South Carolina, where Boseman was from. (While they were already legally married, they were planning a celebration, according to Today.) Coogler said that Boseman also "asked about [his] kid because he had missed the baby shower."
As for the script, Boseman told Coolger that "he didn't want to read it, because he didn't want to get in the way of whatever notes the studio might have." He added, "I found out later that he was too tired to read anything."
Coogler first thought news of Boseman's death was a hoax.
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In the podcast interview, Coogler also talked about the manner in which he found out Boseman had died. He received calls from his manager and his agent, but he wasn't convinced.
"They called and told me that, and I didn't want to believe it, so I called Denzel. I spoke with him and was like, 'Maybe it's a rumor,'" Coogler said. "You know, you go through that denial." Soon, the official statement about Boseman's death was released to the press and Coogler realized it was true.
Coogler considered walking away from the film industry.
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Following Boseman's death, Coogler questioned whether or not he could even continue on as a director. In addition to Black Panther, the filmmaker wrote and directed the critically acclaimed movies Fruitvale Station and Creed.
"I was at a point when I was like, 'I'm walking away from this business,'" Coogler told Entertainment Weekly in October. "I didn't know if I could make another movie period, [let alone] another Black Panther movie, because it hurt a lot. I was like, 'Man, how could I open myself up to feeling like this again?'"
After reflecting on how much the movie and the character meant to Boseman, he decided to continue on. "I was poring over a lot of our conversations that we had, towards what I realized was the end of his life. I decided that it made more sense to keep going."
The new MCU sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (out Nov. 11), does not recast Boseman's part of T'Challa but instead focuses on existing and new characters while honoring the role that Boseman played.